Career Exploration Isn’t Bad: How Random Skills Assist me Today

by Nora Dunn on November 7, 2013

I have a very random selection of skills and careers in my repertoire, which you’d be hard-pressed to find any continuity between. But with some perspective, it has all tied together uncannily to assist me today in my present career as an entrepreneur and freelance writer.

Here’s my journey, and collection of random skills that assist me today in stoking my passions:


Piano = Typing

My musical background includes being a concert pianist at a young age, touring China with a ballet as the flautist (at 16), and more. One of the learned skills of a pianist is that of creating muscle memory in the fingers.

Thus, my knowledge of a computer keyboard and muscle memory is strong enough that I can type at a ridiculously fast pace while simultaneously having a conversation with somebody in the room. (I can, but I don’t – unless I’m being an ass and showing off.)


Singing/Performing = Speaking

That's me, in the purple dress, in Crazy For You

That’s me, in the purple dress, in Crazy For You

Between dancing, singing, acting, and musical instruments, I’ve been performing in one capacity or another since I was three years old. In my financial planning days, I parlayed these skills into addressing audiences as large as 3,000 people.

Today, my performance experience serves me in creating (hopefully) entertaining videos, and speaking to groups about full-time travel.


Television Production = Video Blogging

Not only was I in front of cameras, but I’ve worked behind them too (I lucked into it through a co-op class in high school). I have experience at a few television stations and shows, and a even a short stint running a studio for high-school co-ops.

The shooting and editing skills I learned are regularly applied in my own videos.


Property Management = Admin & Computer Skills

I tend to refer to my three or so years in property management as my “blue period”, but there’s no denying the fact that my humble beginnings as a temp in an operations office (progressing to assistant property manager, overseeing multiple residential/commercial/industrial properties) served me well in terms of acquiring administrative and computer skills. (And a general appreciation of ductwork).


Financial Planning = Sales & Business Skills

Armed with an innate ability to save and manage money along with my administrative skills (and a few dozen acquired licenses and courses), I took a leap into starting a financial planning practice. I worked under the umbrella of Investors Group (Canada’s largest financial planning company), who provided some of the most valuable skills and training I could have hoped for.

I had to hustle for clients, which taught me the finer mechanics of sales – which now assists me to create inspirational posts, and write compelling pitches to editors.

And in managing my practice with hundreds of clients and millions of dollars at stake, I learned the same business skills that now help me to create a vision for The Professional Hobo, plan my business activities, manage my time and clients, and more.


Financial Planning = Finance/Lifestyle Design Niche

When I worked with my clients, I focused less on investments and numbers, and more on what they wanted out of life, redefining their relationships with money, and engineering their finances to help them create the lives of their dreams.

I parlayed this financial planning expertise into writing about the finance of travel and its complexities (this week marks my 100th Financial Travel Tip!). My focus on lifestyle design is not only based on my personal experience of selling everything to travel, but I draw on the experiences of those I touched (and who touched me) from my financial planning days.



Financial Planning = Coaching

In working with clients on their personal finances as well as the more esoteric topics above, a lot of other issues tended to come out. I was part financial planner, part coach, part mother, part sister, part friend, even part therapist.

This has aided me in the coaching services I’m in the process of structuring to help people embrace their own dreams of full-time financially sustainable travel.


Media Training = Interviews and Hot Seat Experiences

As my financial planning practice grew, I made appearances on tv, gave interviews for major newspapers and radio stations, and provided training resources and sessions. Thus, I took a special media training course, which has served me invaluably in so many ways.

In my writing, the ability to construct a concise key message and support it is important. But also, in various interviews, panel discussions, and like appearances, I know how to have a cool head and get the message across when I’m in the hot seat.

And I’ve ended up in the news a few times since becoming The Professional Hobo:



Birth = Entrepreneurial Mindset?

Both of my parents are freelance musicians, so the concept of working for myself came quite naturally to me. I never really worried about the feast-or-famine quandaries that freelancing and business can hold; thus I put that extra energy into getting ahead. It’s probably what helped me jump confidently from career to career in the early years, and ultimately to becoming something of a pioneer in a new industry in later years.

I am sure that entrepreneurial skills can be learned and mastered, but I do wonder if some people are simply predisposed to being entrepreneurs.



Career Exploration Isn’t Bad

Through my 20s, I was chastised for my lack of commitment to any given career or skill. I picked up something, I mastered it (to varying extents), and then I dropped it when it didn’t feel right any more (or when a better opportunity came along). It has contributed to the dizzying amount of life experiences I’ve garnered, but it goes against the norm in many ways – as I was reminded of regularly.


But I didn’t care enough to change my ways. I was exploring. Life is too short to rope yourself into something you don’t really want to do, if you have the willingness and ability to try new things. I didn’t go to university, and I view much of the knowledge I garnered from working in its stead as my “education”.

I couldn’t be happier with how it all panned out, and how such a random collection of skills has woven together to create my current career, stoke my passions, and create the mosaic that is…me.


What’s in your mosaic?




{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Hodgkiss November 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Haven’t commented here for a while. Like the way you equate life experiences with job opportunities. I make models for fun and some of that attention to detail and specialist skills certainly rubs off in my day job. Reading all the blogs about travellers making a full-time lifestyle out of it certainly brings home to me the missed opportunities from my youth to do exactly that (when the world was an easier place to travel around in).


theprofessionalhobo November 8, 2013 at 8:38 am

Hi Ian,
You make an interesting point about it being easier to travel the world in times gone by. It’s certainly a different climate – in some ways I would have said it was more difficult to travel in the past, without the constant availability of assistance through technology. You would have had to engage the world a lot more – which is becoming a lost art these days.


Anna November 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

I am realizing now that even though in college I avoided writing like a plague (focusing on econ and finance), every job I’ve had since has been pushing me to hone that skill and now it’s something that I do recreationally (my blog), professionally (communication strategy), and aspiringly-professionally (hoping to become a published author).


theprofessionalhobo November 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

Hi Anna,
I had a similar experience; as a budding writer from childhood, my desire to ever write professionally was killed by my grade 11 English teacher. (!)
Inadvertently, I kept on writing in one capacity or another through my career exploration, so when I decided to officially pick up the pen – I had lots of practice!


Deia @ Nomad Wallet November 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Nora, you’ve done so many different things! I love how every experience makes your life richer. And that photo of you dancing is priceless. :D


theprofessionalhobo November 10, 2013 at 7:20 am

Thanks, Deia! I often reminisce to my musical theatre days….hoping I’ll get to grace the stage again some time.


nicole November 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Thank you so much for this post! I am always chastised for my career explorations and it was so refreshing to be assured that everything has a purpose for some other aspect of life later on. You are such an inspiration, I feel myself heading into a lifestyle similar to yours. I can’t even explain how happy I was to have come across your blog and facebook page. Blessings to you!


theprofessionalhobo November 28, 2013 at 7:03 am

Thank you, Nicole! So glad you’ve drawn some inspiration from my musings and experience. And power to you in your own adventures! The world is limited only by your creativity. Cheers.


Sofie February 23, 2014 at 6:05 am

It always strikes me how the most successful people are often the ones that haven’t followed the ‘normal’ career path.
Woop for you!


Nora Dunn February 23, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Thanks, Sofie! I’m far from normal….for better or worse! ;-)


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